Monday, 18 May 2015

WWE Payback 2015 review

I didn't have particularly high hopes for Payback. The card was heavy on rematches and had what felt like a squandered opportunity to do something special in the main event. It didn't help that the pre-show got underway with R-Truth beating Stardust. Things didn't get better with The Ascension v Mandow and Axel but when the show proper started I was pleasantly surprised. It wasn't a fantastic show or anything (I knew it wouldn't be that) but it was good more than it was bad and all the matches I'd expected to be good were.

Dolph Ziggler and Sheamus opened the show. Cole claimed that the match had "become" personal. Was it not personal last month when they fought in a Kiss My Arse match? Because that seems like a fairly personal stip to me. Backwards booking of this feud aside the match was good. 'The Show Off' took the early lead. Sheamus turned the tables when he caught a super kick and elbowed Dolph's knee. Ziggler came back with a series of forearms before pulling up his trunks and rubbing his backside into Sheamus's face, retribution (or, if you prefer, payback) for the finish of their Extreme Rules collision. The pair traded finishers and signature moves to ratchet up the tension, Ziggler getting two counts off a Fameasser and a super kick. Sheamus got one of his own wren he trapped Ziggler in a cloverleaf. The match closed with a bleeding Ziggler being Brogue kicked for the three count.

After that Seth Rollins and Kane had an overly rehearsed exchange designed to get everyone up to speed on their grudge. Kane had been told by Triple H that he'd lose his Director of Operations job if Rollins lost the title. Kane told Rollins here that he didn't need that job and explained he still hadn't decided what he'd do in the main event. The segment ended with J&J threatening Kane. As a reminder this was all fine.

Better than fine was New Day's entrance promo. They talked about positivity and trashed a local sports team. It was, as these things go, highly enjoyable.

The first fall of this two-out-of-three falls match saw Cesaro and Kidd dominate Kofi and Big E with double team moves. Particularly impressive was Cesaro. He caught Big E in mid-air (just like last month) and made short work of Kofi with uppercuts and jumping stomps. The challengers got a quick pin after the Big Swing into a drop kick on Kofi. That prompted Xavier Woods to leap onto the apron screaming about the Freebird rule. Natalya pulled him down to the floor where he was wiped out by Tyson. That left Kofi and Big E to compete in the second fall. They got off to a better start here when E grabbed Tyson as he went for a suicide dive and gave him a belly-to-belly suplex on the floor.

The second fall was built around Tyson trying to tag out as he was worked over by New Day. New Day pinned him after E speared Cesaro off the apron and he and Kingston gave hit the double team Big Ending. They stayed on Tyson as the third fall began, still with Big E and Kofi as the legal men. Tyson tagged out almost immediately and Cesaro came in to batter Kofi with uppercuts and hit E with a double underhook power bomb. The uppercuts were incredible. The bomb was botched.

Kofi survived a wild Cesaro uppercut, a backbreaker-elbow drop combo, and a Kidd Sharpshooter before being hit with a pop-up by Kidd and an uppercut from Cesaro for what we were primed to see as the definite finish. Big E broke that up and as the referee busied himself getting him out of the ring Woods slipped into the ring and got a small package on Cesaro. The referee, unable to see Woods' face when he turned around, counted the fall and New Day retained. It was a good finish, one that played into New Day being cheats and kept the feud alive.

Backstage Ryback cut a Warrior-esque promo to Byron Saxton. He told us he's not a lab rat and that he lives his life by the motto "Start full, end hungry." It was entertaining stuff. As it turned out it was more entertaining than the match that followed it. Both Wyatt and Ryback have their strengths as wrestlers but they didn't mesh well here. They included some impressive spots (Ryback taking a DDT on the apron and Wyatt leaping from the ring to the floor with a senton) but overall the match was pretty basic. It got a better reaction than it deserved because both lads are over as characters. Wyatt won after shoving Ryback into an exposed turnbuckle (which just fell off as they tussled with one another, a lazy bit of booking designed to protect 'back) and giving him Sister Abigail.

The Final Confrontation Ever (for now) between John Cena and Rusev followed that. Before Cena was even in the ring the growing divide between Lana and Rusev was being emphasised, the crowd playing their part by chanting for Lana. It was clear Lana was going to play a part in the finish of the match. Rusev offering Cena the chance to quit before the match began didn't fool anyone. It did get amusingly mixed "Yes!" and "No!" chants when referee Mike Chioda asked Cena if he'd accept the offer though.

After Rusev had repositioned Lana on a chair by the commentary table (prompting Lawler to openly admit he'd perv on her as she was so close) the match got underway with some solid big lad action. Cena surprised Rusev with an AA. Rusev responded with some drop kicks and a heel kick then went to have a word with Lana. Moments later he had her pass him the Russian flag so he could wave it about. Cena turn surprised him with a Five Knuckle Shuffle.

Rusev quickly regained control. He threw Cena into ring steps on the outside and whipped him into the on the inside. A piledriver attempt on the steps failed but a sidewalk slam didn't. Cena withstood it, refusing to give up. Because that's his slogan, innit. He then got a desperation AA on the steps and lobbed the steps at Rusev's head after he rolled to ringside. 'The Super Athlete' sidestepped it.

Cena threatened to put Rusev through a crowd barricade if he didn't quit. Rusev refused so Cena did indeed spear him through the barricade. An extended brawl through the crowd followed. They spent several minutes playing around near an incredibly flimsy table before Rusev discovered the pyro tech area. He attempted to their Cehs onto it but Cena countered, giving Rusev a AA on a crash mat several feet away from the pyro shooters. This inexplicably caused some pyro to go off. The commentary didn't even sell it, so what was the point.

Lana ran to the entrance area looking concerned. Rusev refused to give him so Cena hit him with a guard rail. 'The Bulgarian Brute' put the guardrail to use himself by suplexing Cena onto it. Back in the ring Rusev Hulked up, kicked Cena in the face and applied the Accolade. Cena sold it for all of ten seconds before clambering to his feet and smacking Rusev into a turnbuckle. The hold remained locked in and Cena sagged back down to his feet. Cena passed out in the hold and Rusev celebrated like he'd win. When he was told he hadn't he undid the top rope and poorer water on Cena to revive him. His plan was to swing the metal corner piece into Cena's head but Cena ducked and dragged him down into the STF. Rusev started cutting a promo in Bulgarian, prompting Lana to slide into the ring screaming that he quit.

Yes, the finish was predictable but the match as a whole was very enjoyable. They were given plenty of time and a bunch of shortcuts and made the most of both. It was the best entry in their series. This sort of match is Cena's strength. Rusev has looked good in the environment too. If he's kept around the top of the card he could probably develop a pretty mean reputation in these sorts of brawling matches.

The mood was lightened after that, with New Day toasting their title victory by drinking milk. Byron Saxton rocked up and told the trio that they'd be defending their titles in an Elimination Chamber at the EC Network special. New Day weren't impressed. Big E said they were too big to fit in a pod. Kofi was the standout of the segment. He's doing great work as an antagonist.

After a fast-paced tag match pitting Naomi and Tamina against the Bellas, won by the heels after Naomi simply threw Nikki off the top rope, we were shown Lana and Rusev in the back. Rusev wasn't happy, obvs. He ranted in Russian before switching to English to tell Lana to get out. It would be nice if the sword to English was done because Rusev didn't feel Lana warranted Bulgarian or Russian but the reality was that the line needed to be in English to make it clear to viewers that Lana wasn't simply walking out on Rusev.

King Wade Bad News Barrett I versus 'The New Sensation' 'Don't Call Me Adrian' Neville took the pre-main event slot. WWE apparently still feel audiences can't handle two hot matches between headline talents in a row and pack in a lengthy cool down period before a main event. I think they should trust audiences more, to be honest. Better running orders could really benefit a lot of their pay-per-views. They didn't get long but they had a good match for the time they had. The finish was disappointing though: Barrett rolled out of the ring to avoid a Red Arrow and took a count out loss. He roughed Nev up after the match. Neville got the last laugh when he lamped Barrett with the plastic sceptre and launched himself off the top rope with the Red Arrow.

The main event was predictably excellent. Noble and Mercury grabbed Reigns and Ambrose at the start. Within moments Reigns had broken away to hit an impressive Undertaker-like leap over the top rope onto a human crash mat at ringside. Some fluid action followed from all four. Sadly it wasn't long before Kane interfered: he pulled Reigns from the ring as he set up for a spear on Rollins. Team Rollins then attacked Reigns and Orton, leaving Ambrose and Rollins to battle in the ring. They did the great work they always do with each other before Kane interfered again, this time choke slamming 'The Lunatic Fringe' just before he spiked Rollins with Dirty Deeds.

Orton and Reigns finally took care of Kane at ringside before 'The Viper' headed into the ring for his singles stretch with Seth. The highlight here was a high-arcing superplex from Orty. It also lead to the spot of the match: Orton clearing the announce table only to be beaten down and power bombed through it by Rollins, Ambrose and Reigns. Ambrose and Reigns turned on Rollins immediately afterwards and got attacked by Kane. That didn't the well for him. He was power bombed onto Rollins through the Spanish table. Twice, because it didn't break the first time.

Ambrose and Reigns slipped into the ring for a singles stretch opposite one another. Ambrose was easily the more popular, winning out on a yay-boo exchange, but it was Reigns who dominated. Ambrose kicked out of a Superman punch and countered a spear with the knee. Reigns escaped a Dirty Deeds attempt and dropped Ambrose with a spear. Rollins returned to break it up then did a lap around ringside to escape Reigns' wrath. Back in the ring Reigns was dropped with Ambrose's rebound clothesline and Rollins with Dirty Deeds. Kane made the save by pulling Ambrose out then smashed both of them with steel stairs.

Orton knocked Kane into a ring post and then headed into the ring to RKO J&J and catch Rollins with a power slam as the champ leapt off the top rope. 'The Big Red Machine' interfered again, distracting Orton long enough to allow Rollins to sneak in a Pedigree for a successful title defence. His reward for this victory was having his hand raised in the aisle by 'The Game' himself, Triple H. High praise indeed for 'The Future'.


Results summary:
Sheamus defeated Dolph Ziggler
New Day defeated Cesaro and Tyson Kidd to retain the tag team championship
Bray Wyatt defeated Ryback
John Cena defeated Rusev to retain the United States championship
Naomi and Tamina defeated the Bellas
Adrian Neville defeated King Barrett
Seth Rollins defeated Randy Orton, Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose to retain the WWE championship

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